Telephony service JaJah has launched two completely different voice tools that are both useful in their own right. The first is a new "concierge" service that lets you call any of your contacts with voice dialing using a special local access number. It works even if your handset does not support voice dialing, and will connect you to that person as long as you've synced up your address book with JaJah's.
The other service, called Babel, is more useful for people visiting Beijing as part of this summer's Olympics. By calling a special phone number you can leave a voice message that will be translated to Mandarin in just a few seconds. It's meant to be used as an on-the-go tool for English speakers who are over there to watch the games and who might run into translation issues while getting around.
Unfortunately, Babel requires calling a local U.S., U.K., or Australia local access number to access it, as there's not currently one for China. The good news is that if you're in the depths of a local Chinatown in one of these supported countries, you'll be able to ask for directions or order a dish off a restaurant menu using your phone instead of having to point to it on a menu.
I gave Babel a spin earlier this morning and had mixed results. You might as well give up for things like URLs or long words. Even when I spokes as slowly and as clearly as possible, it managed to flub up more than half of the words in some cases including classics like turning "point" into "porno" and "get" into "Georgia." Regardless, its speed is truly impressive as it spits back results in just a few seconds. You can view my trials with it in the video below, or give it a spin yourself at 1-718-513-2969. You can also find the other local access numbers for the U.K. and Australia here.
If you're a native Mandarin speaker, I'd love to hear how this does with English translations. Let me know in the comments.